ARM: REview - DML 1/35 Scale M4A3E8 "Thunderbolt VII"

Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale '39-'45 Series Kit
Number 6183; M4A3E8 "Thunderbolt VII"; 633 parts (431 in grey
styrene, 160 "Magic Link" T66 tracks, 18 clear styrene, 12 steel
springs, 11 etched brass, 6 brass tubes, 1 turned aluminum barrel);
estimated price US $41-45
Advantages: DML "works off the gig sheet" on past kits with CORRECT
weld beads and "slide molded" turret shapes; back detail on all
wheels; very detailed parts breakdown to HVSS bogies; correct period
T66 tracks
Disadvantages: not enough etched brass for some modelers (see text)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all US Armor fans and "Shermaholics"
F I R S T L O O K
There is a document used by the United States Army which goes by its
printing reference number as Form DA 2404. It is used to list the daily
check faults on vehicles and as such is usually called either a 2404 or
"gig sheet." Essentially the majority of kit reviews or build
reviews many modelers write or see is pretty much along the same lines,
albeit some are more finicky than others as to what they write up as
"gigs".
For years fans of the Sherman tank - more properly the US Army M4
Medium Tank series - have been doing this to one kit or another for
many reasons. And nearly every major and several minor manufacturer has
done a 1/35 scale Sherman - Revell, Monogram, Tamiya, Italeri,
Nichimo, MP Models, Dragon Models Limited, and Academy with Sherman
based kits either coming out or available from AFV Club and Trumpeter
as well. All have been written up for their flaws, mistakes or simple
"gigs" and as a result have keep "experten" on the Shermans
(and a few real knowledgeable people like Steve Zaloga and Joe Demarco)
busy sorting them out for more than 25 years.
The major problems that are usually noted with the kits are these:
- The turret shapes are wrong, or wrong for the version being modeled;
- The weld beads are wrong, as they show up as "trenches" rather
than weld bead which stands proud of the surface;
-The wheels come with no backing detail and are too thin;
- The tracks are not correct, either wrong width, wrong design, wrong
patter, or too flimsy;
- And, the details for a specific variant are not correct -
exhausts, vents, fenders, grilles, or hatches are not put in the right
place (the culprit usually being research of an incorrectly restored
vehicle.)
DML has taken much of the criticism of their kits to heart, and even
though they have produced the arguably best Sherman kits to date, they
have constantly been "gigged" for some or all of the above errors.
Now they have come back with a vengeance with this first in a new
series of M4 series tank kits, and most of the "gigs" have been
"worked off" or eliminated.
The subject of the new kit is the last WWII M4 tank used by Colonel
Creighton Abrams after he took off Combat Command B of the 4th Armored
Division. It represents an early production M4A3 with the horizontal
volute spring suspension, better known as either HVSS or "Easy 8"
after its test designation, single-pin T66 cast tracks, a 76mm gun with
muzzle brake in the later version of the T23-derived cast turret, and
ordnance designed and fitted applique armor panels.
While not labeled as a "Smart Kit" like the new Panther Ausf. G,
the new M4A3E8 kit uses a minimum of multimedia parts - it comes with
a sparse brass sheet of only 11 items for use as the fenders for the
wider HVSS suspension and track, a turned aluminum barrel, and 12
springs and six brass tubes that may be fitted to the suspension to
permit it to "operate." While I personally am not a fan of
"frou-frou" features like this, at least it is a better and more
scalelike way to approach it than the toy-like vinyl or rubber fittings
used in some other kits from other manufacturers.
The name of the game with this kit is "slide molding" which
permits DML to get more onto the model in the right places and with
less distortion. The lower hull pan now sports a lot more detail than
past kits, including the assembly notching used on the real vehicle and
other niceties. The upper hull FINALLY sports something no other kit
has done up until now - RAISED weld bead instead of trenches where
the welded hull assembles. This by itself will win the affection of
many "Shermaholics" who tired of having to constantly fill and
reshape the weld beads.
The turret is an evolution of the recent moldings from DML , and is
again "slide molded" with texture, built-in pistol port mount, and
the subtle angles of the original cast turret captured far better than
past efforts by all companies.
The bogies are very complex, but are detailed on all sides and look
quite impressive. Each one consists of two seven-piece subassemblies
(the tires are separate) and a 12-piece center assembly using the
springs and brass tube to provide for spring operation of the bogie if
carefully assembled. There is no "non-working" option so care will
have to be taken to get the parts aligned correctly.
This is the "early model" and comes with the original
"three-vane" exhaust deflector at th rear of the hull as well as
the T66 single-link tracks. While DML had a great set of T66 tracks
that they came out with ten years ago, the new ones are "Magic
Track" and snap together. Each one has four tiny ejection pin marks
on it, partially to permit the correct molding of the center guide horn
as hollow; but they stand "proud" and will be easily trimmed off.
(The real ones were short-lived as they proved fragile; if you want to
go with the late war T80 tracks, the AFV Club ones would be your best
bet as they are less fussy than the old DML ones that need their
connectors drilled out and center guides glued in place.) Suffice to
say that they did not opt out for what appears to have been the wrong
T80 tracks as they did with their DX05 "Allen F. Irzyk" M4A3E8 kit
last year (to which this kit is only related by generic type and not
moldings.)
The kit is the first one that captures subtle details (usually not
seen) such as the APU exhaust (part B35) under the left sponson. (I
don't highlight that as all DML Shermans have always had sponson
floors, unlike some other kits.) The idlers are also detailed on both
sides and nicely done. Also, DML has engineered the proper fittings for
the tow shackles at the front of the hull with the double brackets.
Most of the rest of the details are new and nicely done - even the
tools are more substantial than in past kits. All gun barrels are
hollow-bored and all "glass" is provided with a clear plastic
viewer or lens.
The one major grouse some will have with this kit - as with the
"Smart Kit" Panther - is that it is engineered to only use a
small amount of etched brass. In this kit that translates to only two
items - a complete set of fenders (albeit with styrene braces) and a
bracket for the additional .30 caliber Browning used by Abrams. (Note
that the direct6ions do not really cover the specific fit for
"Thunderbolt VII" as opposed to other late war M4A3E8 tanks, but do
show it in the finishing instructions.) All of the "normal" etched
parts - brackets, viewer guards, headlight and taillight guards, etc.
- are all very thin and petite styrene moldings. (I feel there will
be a cyber-hobby.com "Upgrade" set coming...) However, there are
more than enough etched sets available to please the most demanding
soul, and for those who do not like etched metal this kit will more
than meet the need.
Four finishing options are provided: "Thunderbolt VII" with all of
its upgrades and fittings, 4th AD Germany 1945; another 4th AD tank,
Germany 1945; 35th Tank Battalion, 4th AD, Bastogne 1945; and 41st Tank
Battalion, 11th Armored Division, Germany 1945. All are basic OD with
the minimal amount of codes and lettering, which is a bit odd as at
this stage of the war many of the vehicles began to sprout full sets of
lettering, coding, numbers and stars. One would have though DML would
have selected one of them, but they chose to go with "minimalist"
subjects.
Overall this is another great effort from DML, and while the "boo
birds" will no doubt carp about the lack of etched brass the fact of
having a great and solid base kit is of more interest to the average
modeler and will be more appreciated in the long run.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
* * *
Sprue Layout:
A 96 M4A2/A3 Late upper hull with A2 engine deck
B 37 Late T23 style turret
C 18 clear styrene
D 8 Applique armor panels
G 24 M4A3 engine deck and VVSS details
H 24 Early T23 style turret
J 24 Road wheel tires
K 4 Idler tires
Q 35x2 Drive wheels
Q 48x3 HVSS road wheels and bogies
X 1 Lower hull pan
Y 160 Magic Track - T66 links
MA 11 etched brass fenders
MB 12 steel springs
MB 6 brass tubes
MB 1 turned aluminum barrel
Reply to
AMPSOne
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Not to start an argument or anything: But as a follow up question, which came in more variations, the Sherman tank or the Messerschmitt 109??? :-) Bill Shuey
Reply to
William H. Shuey
Bill,
On paper the DESIGNATED variants of the 109 would win - must be over 60 or 70 of them, and only about 20 recognized Sherman types.
But as there were only 29,000 109s built and over 49,000 Shermans, and the latter had more FIELD mods than the former, figure the odds... 8-)
Cookie Sewell
Reply to
AMPSOne
depends on the mission. the 109 was more of a pilot's plane and the 190 was better for mediocre pilots. all the german aces said they prefered the 109....at least the one i've read. then again, rudel loved the stuka over any other dive bomber.
Reply to
e
Thunderbolt VII used early T23 turret with split loader's hatch and machine gun ring. DML was able to obtain rare pictures of this tank which clearly show this feature.
Pawel
Reply to
Vodnik
Roger that. Both turret shells are included though as the other tanks did not have the early turret.
Cookie Sewell
Reply to
AMPSOne
...that pretty much sums it up - properly match mission and ability with the right platform and you'll get a winning combination with any chunk of equipment. Do otherwise, and...
Reply to
Rufus
like me thursday....har har. i had to go to v-ville to the dr. so i rode the new sr. i took the back road there at 9 am. when i left at 11 it was a freakin 101f, so i decided to hit i15 and boogie back. i added an oil cooler on the top of the down tube under th gas tank in front of the jug. it's actually an elkhart tranny cooler unit but it was an easy mod. i figured that would keep things nice and cool. it was so freakin hot that i stayed between 90-95 all the way back. when i got off at barstow rd, the motor died. no biggie, right? pulled off ont the bridge and hit the kicker...it would not budge! the motor was so hot the piston swelled tight. so i sat for 10 minutes, rolled down the hill 20 feet and bumped it. it started right up and ran fine..... i suspect the new cooler kept it from a highway lock up! it also allows an extra quart of oil in the system. those sr motor are bullet proof, the bike had zero ill effects! the point? me and sr's are tuned to each other.
Reply to
e
Heh...I burnt a battery in my '98. Just replaced it.
Was going to pick the new batt up and came across a guy on a hardtail chopper (with a rice-rocket motor in it...) that had siezed the rear brake. Probably threw a shoe - was a drum. One of the locals had a trailer coming for him.
Reply to
Rufus
let me guess, a honda 750 4cylinder k model, pretty extreme rake, flames and a goadawgul king and queen seat? the rear wheel was from a sporty and there's no front brake?
Reply to
e
...very, very, VERY, close...I can't recall about the flames. Was too busy looking at the drum brake on the rear - hadn't seen one in ages.
Reply to
Rufus
Willy Messerschmitt was a loyal member of the Nazi Party so as rewarded with big government contracts at the expense of his rivals whose designs were often much better.
(kim)
Reply to
kim
in the early 70's i was lucky enough to work for a guy who was a pioneer in the japanese custom field. i wasn't like a hot shot builder ot painter, i was young and learning. but it was a great expirience and helped my wrenching immensely. i eas given a black bomber that a classmate wrecked. the motor was fine, except for the exhaust. the owner, jim, gave me ideas and parts at cost while teaching me to build a custom. it ended up as a hard tail bitsa. front forks were fron a superhawk, frame was the original straitened and the rear was welded into on piece. we added a shelf where the aircleaners and junk went for the battery and electrics. no rake, (hate rake!) dual discs, electronic ignition, basically it had whatever parts were around. i learned to paint and it was black with some very simple flames. when it was done, it was radical but it was a simplistic joy. i'm looking for pictures. i loved that bike.....wonder where it is? it was like the biggest kitbash i'd ever done. sigh.....old age, mumble, mumble.
Reply to
e
true to an extant, but willy's team and he himself were no slouches in design. the 262 was brillant no matter who designed it.
Reply to
e
"Wars are won by having a lot of something that's a little better, not by having a little of something that's a lot better".
(kim)
Reply to
kim
a quantum leap in tech is still a quantum leap. the basic crate itself was not hugely better than the heinkel, but certainly enough to be the better choice.
Reply to
e
It's about numbers. The Me262 (and Me163) could only be deployed in numbers which had a negligible effect on the allied war effort. It's even possible they had a net-negative effect. How many desperately-needed German fighters were taken off front line line duties in order to protect Me262 and Me163 bases?
Likewise in England it was the Spitfire and Lancaster getting all the glory while the Hurricane and Wellington were doing all the donkey work.
(kim)
Reply to
kim

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